20 February 2023

Nicholls fears Cheltenham woe for Lorcan Williams over whip

20 February 2023

Paul Nicholls fears he will be without jockey Lorcan Williams for the Cheltenham Festival after the rider apparently contravened the new whip rules at Haydock on Saturday.

Williams prevailed by a short head aboard Makin’yourmindup in a driving finish to the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle, but Nicholls believes the rider had committed a whip offence in the process.

New rules surrounding whip use were introduced last Monday, with a tougher penalty structure for breaches, starting at a four-day suspension for going above the permitted seven strikes.

Nicholls indicated Williams had gone above that threshold, with the race’s Grade Two status ensuring any penalties would be doubled under the new regulations, with the champion trainer claiming the rider is expecting 16 days on the sidelines.

However, the Ditcheat team must wait until the whip review committee meets on Tuesday to have any punishment confirmed and with suspensions implemented seven days later, any ban for Williams would not begin until March 7/8, which would rule him out of Cheltenham if the jockey’s prediction is right.

Nicholls told Betfair: “I think Lorcan has got himself into some hot water under these new whip rules. My understanding and his understanding, but it’s got to be confirmed on Tuesday when the whip review panel meets, he thought he was going to get 16 days which would rule him out of Cheltenham which is tough really.

“It’s one of those situations, he said if he hadn’t given him a couple of cracks, he wouldn’t have won. What was he to do, drop his hands and get beat? This is where there’s a grey area and it’s difficult.

“I don’t what the outcome is, but it looks like he’s going to have to sit out Cheltenham which is terribly sad.”

Any whip suspensions incurred this week would come into effect during Cheltenham week, so Nicholls has warned stable jockey Harry Cobden to keep that in mind over the coming days.

He added: “Harry is going to have to be careful – this is the week the lads have got to be careful, up to and including the weekend, because if you get into trouble, that is when you could well miss Cheltenham.

“The following week, with the structure of the whip review and the dates and that, they’d be OK for Cheltenham. The lads have got to be careful and I’ve already stressed to Harry he’s got to be very careful because we don’t want him missing Cheltenham because that would be a disaster for everyone involved.

“These new whip rules are going to cause a headache, I can see that.”

The British Horseracing Authority underlined no decisions on possible riding offences will be made until the whip review panel meets.

A spokesperson said: “The Whip Review Committee have not yet met to consider referrals from last week. Until they meet to consider the rides then no breaches have occurred and no penalties are decided or imposed, and any suggestion as to possible penalties is pure speculation.”

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